Phil Markowitz was raised in East Hampton, New York; home of the Abstract Expressionist movement. Growing up, he was not only fortunate enough to see their exhibitions on a fairly regular basis, but his family counted Willem deKooning and Jackson Pollack among their personal acquaintances. So, it seems only fitting that Phil should be awarded grants from Chamber Music America-The Doris Duke Jazz Project to compose, and The Howard Foundation to orchestrate a suite inspired by works of art by Abstract Expressionist painters. Thus the birth of “Abstract Expression- Musical Portraits of American Masters.”
Of course, a lot transpired between the time Phil was first introduced to the world of Abstract Expressionism and his receiving grants to musicalize some of the paintings. After more than thirty years as a jazz pianist and composer, his resume reads like a veritable “Who’s Who of Jazz”.
His first big break came in 1979, when he joined Chet Baker’s band. That four-year association took him around the world and back again, and yielded such recordings as “Broken Wing”, “Live at Nick’s Place”, “Two A Day”, “Live at Chateauvalion”, and “Live at The Rising Sun”.
Phil has since performed and/or recorded with such notables as Mel Lewis, Marion McPartland, Phil Woods, Lionel Hampton, Nick Brignola, Joe Chambers, Miroslav Vitous, Joe Williams, Paul Winter and, an association that continues to this day, Bob Mintzer. Phil is the regular pianist in Bob’s quartet and big band, and can be heard on such recordings as “Softly”, the Grammy Award-winning “Homage to Count Basie”, “Quality Time”, “Latin in Manhattan”, “Big Band Trane”, “Only in New York”, “Departure”, “Art of the Big Band”, and “Spectrum”
Like his first big break as a pianist, Phil’s big break as a composer also came in the late 1970’s. Phil was playing in a NYC club with legendary jazz harmonica player, Toots Thielemans, and, as they were playing Phil’s composition, “Sno’ Peas”, pianist Bill Evans walked in, loved the song, and asked Toots to bring it to their upcoming recording session. Evans' and Thielemans' subsequent recording of “Sno’ Peas” on the classic Grammy-nominated album, “Affinity”, put Markowitz on the map as a venerable jazz composer.
Phil’s biggest break of all, however, was meeting and “clicking” with Dave Liebman. They have been playing, touring, and recording together for nearly fifteen years. Phil has served as pianist, composer, and/or producer on such albums as “A Walk in the Clouds”, “Meditations”, “New Vista”, “Voyage”, “Return of the Tenor”, “Songs for My Daughter”, “Miles Away”, “Turn It Around”, and “Classique”. They have also recorded two live duo albums, “But Beautiful” and their newly recorded “Manhattan Dialogues”, due to be released this summer on ZOHO records.
Also with Lieb, Phil is the pianist with the all-star group “Tenor Summit”, with Michael Brecker, Joe Lovano, (Lieb), Billy Hart, and Cecil McBee. Their newly released album, “Gathering of the Spirits” has already received critical acclaim, and another tour is in the works.
Although Phil is inspired and at home in all musical settings, he is dedicated to realizing the full potential of improvisational music and the jazz idiom. As leader of his own dynamic piano trio, he exhibits an unyielding, progressive approach to his compositions, which range from hard-cutting chromaticism to the most lyrical expressions of post romantic ballads. His trio albums include “Taxi Ride” (which features an incredible reunion with his lifelong friend, Toots Thielemans) , “In the Woods”, and “Sno’ Peas”. His quartet recordings include “Restless Dreams” (with vibraphonist Joe Locke) and “7 + 8”, recorded in Italy with saxophonist Maurizio Giammarco.
As well as performing around the globe, Phil has served as guest artist and clinician in universities throughout the world. Academically speaking, however, his home base is the Manhattan School of Music, where he is a professor in the graduate and doctoral divisions.
Aside from his endowments from The Howard Foundation and Chamber Music America-The Doris Duke Foundation, Phil has been awarded grants by The National Endowment for the Arts and The New York Foundation for the Arts.